You offer your heart, your love, your labor, your time, everything you have. And no one wants it. You, and all that you have to give, are discarded like trash. This happens not just sometimes, but always, both with persons and with groups of all kinds, within your family, at work, in your church. It evolves from a pattern to an inevitability, till you wonder how many times you can be disemboweled and still live….

Some counselor tells you not to internalize it—as if that were possible. That’s like telling you that the remedy for pain is not to feel it. Of course, you internalize it and wonder what’s wrong with you, why you are so objectionable that you can apparently evoke cruelty even in good people. And you notice that even the most obnoxious people have friends. Sometimes they are even loved. But not you. And then there is always some “knowledgeable” person who, like any one of Job’s comforters, wants to explain it to you by beginning with “It’s because you….” The kneejerk response of blaming the victim is always handy. You stop loving because you are bankrupt. You’re not unwilling, but there is nothing left to give. With no deposits in your account and so many withdrawals, nothing is left.

Blessed are you.

I’ve heard and read sermons on the Beatitudes many times, but the one that gets stumbled over, tentatively interpreted or forcefully asserted (the way people do when they aren’t really sure of what they’re saying), is “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. It seems this one is the one people struggle to understand.

What does it mean? I’ve read several different interpretations. Once, I even heard of some retreat master who advocated poverty of spirit as though it were something desirable.   He not only misunderstood this beatitude but maybe all the others as well. Does one seek mourning as a blessing? No. Nor do we pursue or somehow “achieve” poverty of spirit.

When Christ spoke those words we call the Beatitudes, or blessings, the people who heard him knew he spoke to them as persons, not as a collective anonymous audience. They also knew he spoke truth. How did they know? Because truth is a priori. It isn’t created—much less “interpreted”—it already exists in our hearts. We don’t “learn” truth; we recognize it. Re-cognize— to know again that which we already knew from some place and time we have forgotten, and then recognize in some mysterious way. Thus, those who mourned knew who they were, and they were comforted; those who bore the cavernous burden of injustice were filled with the knowledge that the injustice would be righted. And those who were poor in spirit knew themselves as he knew them, and the kingdom of heaven became theirs.

Blessed are you.